Olympic gold medalist, Phenix City native and ex-Auburn star Harvey Glance dies at 66
Olympic gold medalist Harvey Glance, a Phenix City native and former Auburn University track star and coach, has died.
Glance died Monday at a hospital in Mesa, Ariz., after suffering cardiac arrest earlier this month, his wife, Tammi, and sister Patricia told the Ledger-Enquirer on Tuesday. He was 66.
Glance was part of the Team USA men’s 400-meter relay team that won the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Also that year, he twice equaled the then-world record of 9.9 seconds in the 100 meters and won the NCAA championship in that event and the 200 for Auburn. The following year, Glance again won the NCAA title in the 100.
Along with coaching at Auburn (1991-96), Glance also coached the track and field team at rival University of Alabama (1997-2011).
Taylor Funeral Home of Phenix City is handling the funeral arrangements, which have not been announced.
HOW HARVEY GLANCE SPENT HIS LAST ACTIVE MOMENTS
Glance spent his last active moments doing what he loved.
June 2, Glance had just completed his usual morning exercise routine, walking 1 or 1½ miles on the track at Mesa Community College and sat in a chair, waiting for another Olympic gold medalist, Kirani James, to finish warming up before starting their training session, Tammi said.
Glance’s “old knees” wouldn’t allow him to run anymore, Tammi said, but he still knew how to coach sprinters.
James walked over to Glance to tell him he was ready to begin practice, but Glance was unresponsive.
Glance didn’t have any history of heart trouble and wasn’t complaining about any health problem, Tammi said. In fact, folks often told him he looked like he still could run just as fast as he did 40 years ago.
“We are just blindsided by this,” she said. “It just makes no sense.”
Tammi finds comfort, however, in knowing the environment where her husband slipped away.
“It finishes a beautiful story of his life,” she said. “So many people know him as that track star, that fast guy. … But outside of that, he was a champion of men, just mentored and coached so many men, not just on the track but in life. Even young people in general who weren’t athletes, his words just stuck with people.”
Glance would tell them, Tammi said, “You can be what you want to be; you just have to stay the course.”
HARVEY GLANCE GREW UP IN PHENIX CITY
Stay the course is exactly what Glance did as a senior at Central High School in Phenix City after a teacher laughed at him for writing in an essay that he wanted to run in the Olympics, Phenix Citizen sportswriter Mark Clark, who graduated from Central with Glance in 1975, told the Ledger-Enquirer.
Although he laughed with the teacher, Glance got the last laugh when he indeed ran in the Olympics the following year.
“If you were around Harvey, if he wasn’t busting out with a big smile, something had to be really wrong,” Clark said. “He was always willing to help people. … Harvey even would help the girls track team learn how to pass the baton.”
Clark, who has written about local athletes for decades, calls Glance the GOAT — the greatest of all time — from Phenix City.
Glance was such a fantastic athlete, Clark said, he could jump atop a Volkswagen from a standing start, but he never played basketball or football for Central because he was so dedicated to track.
Using a training regimen that included running 5 miles per day in combat boots and a sweatsuit, Glance was so fast in high school, Clark said, coaches thought their stopwatches were malfunctioning.
Despite his feats and fame, Patricia remembers her brother as “a humble man.”
“He loved life,” she said. “He was really focused on being happy and making others happy. He was just one of those people who was always encouraging, regardless of the circumstances. He would give you a positive spin on things.”
MORE OF HARVEY GLANCE’S ACHIEVEMENTS
Glance set two Alabama High School Athletic Association records that still remain in the 100-yard and 200-yard dashes. He also won a state title in the long jump.
According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, Harvey majored in health and human performance at Auburn, where he was coached by Mel Rosen and, along with Tony Easley, Willie Smith and James Walker — a sprinting quartet known as the “Fabulous Four” — set the most records in Southeastern Conference track and field history.
Glance won 14 SEC titles and led Auburn to three straight SEC indoor track and field championships from 1977-79.
Working for American Express in Phoenix, Ariz., enabled Glance to work half the day and train the other half. He placed second in the 100 meters and helped the USA win the 400 meter relay at the 1979 Pan American Games in Puerto Rico.
Glance captained the nation’s track team in 1980, but U.S. athletes didn’t compete in the Olympics that year due to the United States boycott in protest of the host Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. In July of that year, Glance was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal along with the other members of the U.S. Summer Olympic team.
Four years later, Glance was injured but qualified for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles as an alternate in the 100 meters to become the first sprinter to qualify for the U.S. Olympic track team three times in a row.
Glance won gold medals at the 1985 World Cup in Australia, the 1986 Goodwill Games in Russia, the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis and the 1987 World Championships in Italy.
In 1988, Glance was the liaison for the U.S. Olympic team, vice president of USA Track and Field, president of the Athletes Advisory Committee and a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Board of Directors.
After succeeding Rosen as Auburn’s head track and field coach in 1991, Glance helped three Tigers become Olympians and three NCAA champions, according to the university.
Glance coached the U.S. World Junior Team in Portugal to five gold medals, eight silvers and four bronzes.
During the 1995-96 season, Glance guided 14 Tigers to All-American honors.
In 1996, Glance was inducted into the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1997, Glance was head coach for the USA men’s track team at the World University Games in Italy.
Also in 1997, Glance became the head track and field coach at the University of Alabama. He coached scores of Crimson Tide athletes to All-American status, dozens of conference champions and several national champions.
Glance was the head men’s coach for the U.S. track team at the 1999 Pan American Games in Canada, where the U.S. led in total medals.
In 1999, Sports Illustrated ranked Glance 23rd among Alabama’s 50 greatest sports figures.
He was an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2003 World Championships in France and coached the 2006 World Junior Team in China.
Glance coached runners at the 2008 Olympics in China and the 2009 World Championships in Germany.
Although he retired in 2011, Glance continued as James’ personal coach, helping him win the 400 meters at the 2011 World Championships in South Korea and in the 2012 Olympics in London.
This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with the Ledger-Enquirer.